With last week’s The Magician seeing The Arrow (Stephen Amell) seemingly make a new enemy for himself in the form of global presence Ra’s al Ghul (Matt Nable), this week’s episode of Arrow brings the Emerald Archer and Starling City under threat from a source far closer to home.
Given the title of The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak, it doesn’t take the World’s Greatest Detective to work out that this fifth episode of the current season centres of Team Arrow’s very own tech-whizz, Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards). Forget the island flashbacks or the Hong Kong flashbacks of Oliver Queen, for this episode takes us back to Felicity’s days studying at MIT. For those of you who picked up STARBURST #404, you’ll have seen our mention that an ex-boyfriend of Felicity’s will come into play in Season 3, and here we get introduced to Cooper (Nolan Funk); an ex of Felicity’s with whom she enjoyed many days of hacking and many nights of fondling. And it’s this younger, almost-EMO version of Felicity that brings us the cause of the problem in modern-day Starling City. You see, having been a computer genius way before her days of assisting The Arrow, in between listening to The Cure and Alkaline Trio, the young Felicity created a super virus that was capable of causing all kinds of chaos on a mass scale. Now this very same computer virus has been used to shut down Starling and cover the city in a blanket of hysteria.
Away from Oliver Queen being the focal point of the show, over the last few years we’ve seen episodes focussed on Diggle (David Ramsey), on Roy (Colton Haynes), on Laurel (Katie Cassidy), on Thea (Willa Holland), and on the now-deceased Sara (Caity Lotz), amongst others. Don’t get us wrong, there have been episodes where Felicity takes centre-stage and plays a massive role, but this is the first real episode to 100% be about Felicity Smoak as a regular person, not just as a member of Team Arrow. As such, as well as including Felicity’s former beau, we also get introduced to mother Donna (Charlotte Ross), and we get some truly shocking reveals when wading through the murky, troubled past of Arrow’s resident nerd.
Stepping away from Felicity for a moment, The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak also has some great moments elsewhere. With Starling City suffering a city-wide blackout and rioters attacking the central bank, The Arrow and Roy Harper (can we just call him Arsenal already?!) appear on the scene to calm things down. It’s with this scene that you really get a sense of The Arrow protecting his city; almost feeling a little like Batman in No Man’s Land, although obviously not quite as severe as a city-shattering earthquake. Removing the hood, we also see Oliver struggling with the revelation that Thea is funding a new club venture by using the money of Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman), whilst the idea of something not being quite right with Roy Harper is further pushed in this episode.
As for the villain of the piece, the mysterious Brother Eye that has brought Starling City to a standstill is a decent enough addition to the episode, with the plot device of the computer virus allowing the show to delve into the backstory of Felicity Smoak for once. It’s also nice to see that even when Arrow reverts to using the played-out approach of a ‘villain of the week,' the show still manages to keep things interesting and uses that particular threat to further the overall story of the show as a whole. Now Brother Eye, often a presence in the comic book world, could go on to appear in the future, but this has all the feel of a one-shot deal for now. Whereas a show like Smallville was often criticised for its use of such weekly threats (just how many Kryptonite-infected bad guys were there in the end?!?!), Arrow uses these characters or groups at no detriment to the overall narrative of the show or the season. The general Brother Eye story may not be anything particularly ground-breaking or as memorable a villain as someone like Season 2’s Dollmaker (Michael Eklund), but it serves its purpose well here.
Elsewhere, the arrival of Donna Smoak is a welcome one, with the character often making for some nice comic relief, especially during her awkward meeting of Ollie and Diggle, whilst Ray Palmer’s (Brandon Routh) presence is seemingly a growing one, particularly when it comes to his relationship with Felicity. And then there’s Ted Grant (J.R. Ramirez), another Season 3 addition to the show that’s getting more to do with each passing week. Whilst Ray Palmer is tied to Felicity’s story this season, the dynamic between Ted Grant and the troubled Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) is rapidly expanding, with Laurel finally confiding in the boxer about what the source of her anger is.
The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak is a unique episode, giving us a glimpse into the life of one of Team Arrow before there even was a Team Arrow. Obviously we’ve seen plenty of Oliver’s backstory, even some of Diggle’s, but the star of the show here is Emily Bett Rickard’s Felicity Smoak. The episode delivers another impressive outing for The CW’s Emerald Archer show, with some nice twists and turns along the way in an almost whodunit-style tale, although it’s the episode’s stinging ending that will leave jaws agape. Depending on how the ending of The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak plays out, there could be huge consequences for all involved in Arrow. And that’s before the looming threat of Ra’s al Ghul has even lifted a finger.
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